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Articles: Business & Finance

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Austin, Texas

This foundation aims to improve the lives of children living in urban poverty nationwide by funding programs that focus on performance-driven education, college preparation and completion, quality school options and academic and after-school programs. The foundation has committed more than $650 million to global initiatives.

www.msdf.org

The Walton Family Foundation

Bentonville, Ark.

It’s not news that public school districts have maintained productive relationships with the business community over the years. In Ohio, Cincinnati Bell recently helped a failing high school in the Cincinnati Public Schools transform itself into an information technology academy by providing student internships, a fleet of volunteer mentors, and college scholarships, not to mention five computer labs.

Parents from Desert Trails School

Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif. has been on the federal watch list for failing schools for six years, with only one-third of sixth-graders at grade level in reading and math. But come next August, it will be transformed into a charter school, thanks to a small group of parents who for the first time enacted major reform under the state’s controversial parent trigger law.

Though the Chicago Teachers Union approved a new contract in September, the aftermath of their eight-day strike has led to debate over the role of teacher unions in education reform; specifically, whether unions should be allowed expansive collective bargaining and striking rights under state law, or if these rights impede reform.

On Election Day, California voters passed Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase that will prevent a nearly $6 billion cut to the state’s public schools. Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the proposition is the first general tax increase passed in the state in two decades. It will increase sales taxes by a quarter of a cent for four years on the state’s base rate of 7.25 percent, and income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 for seven years.

It’s a common situation: A school district in desperate need of additions or renovations and technology upgrades borrows money from investors, to be paid back with interest. But for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, Calif., there is a twist: They don’t need to make any payments on the $105 million they borrowed in 2011 until 2033, so the district’s debt will continue to grow as interest on the loan amasses. In the end, taxpayers will be charged $877 million in interest alone.

New Hampshire’s Nashua School District stood up to a challenge of discrimination this year, allowing a transgender third grade student to attend a new elementary school as a female, despite her biological status as a male. “It’s our policy not to discriminate against any student, and that would include transgender students,” Superintendent Mark Conrad stated.

School district leaders across the nation can benefit from two new grant-funding services. CDW-G has created a new, first-of-its-kind site called GetEdFunding.com, worth $600 million in combined grants. And Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies has created a cloud-based database of federal and state grant funding information for district leaders, including superintendents, and grant writers, particularly related to safety and security.

Charles Glover (center) in one of many administrative meetings at Dallas ISD.

An investment in ‘human capital’ sets Dallas Independent School District apart. The term refers to the teachers and school leaders who support the classrooms. Believing that a team of quality teachers is the single greatest component to moving his district’s students’ academics forward, Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles restructured the district’s human resources department so it would focus more on recruiting and developing an outstanding cadre of instructors.

This is an updated version of the interview posted on the District Administration website at the time of the strike.

Longtime school superintendent Randall Collins, executive director of the District Administration Leadership Institute (daleadershipinstitute.com), shares professional insights on the Chicago teacher strike with Odvard Egil Dyrli, District Administration’s executive editor.

Over the past two years in the Medway (Mass.) Public Schools, teacher evaluation entered a new era, spurred by state and Race to the Top requirements. For the past 15 years, the district used a traditional system of teacher evaluation, including classroom observations, followed by a summative review, notes Medway Superintendent Judy Evans. Administrator walkthroughs, which took less time than formal observations and provided a snapshot of teacher performance, took place only intermittently and did not include all classrooms.

Evaluating teachers—whether casually or more rigorously, annually or less frequently—has long been part of the job description of many a principal and assistant principal, who often have relied on occasional observations to make their judgments. What’s usually resulted are an overwhelming number of “satisfactory” ratings and the infrequent “unsatisfactory” designations.

Which of the two parts of your workers’ compensation program costs the most: the medical treatment for work-related injuries or lost wage replacement (or indemnity). Historically, the indemnity payments accounted for most costs, but recently, the steady rise in medical costs has driven your workers’ compensation costs.

What is at stake for K12 education in next month’s presidential election? Both President Obama and Gov. Romney say improving education will be a top priority in their administrations, but their policies and initiatives would likely be quite different.

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